In a recent citizen survey, Las Cruceans gave public transportation low marks, so KRWG News rode the bus to see what people thought and find out how the city addresses challenges.
Waiting on the bus is on that list of things no one really likes to do.
“Because sometimes I’ll get up there. It’s supposed to get here at 8:05 and my class starts at 8:30,” said Heather Torres, an NMSU student.
She says she never knows how long she’ll wait. “…but it won’t get there till like 8:26 so I’ll run late to class.”
Some people say it can take an hour to get where they’re going.
Campbell Carson rides the bus most days. He lived in Sioux City, Iowa, a city roughly the same size as Las Cruces.
“So I lived there with my grandkids and stuff and their bus fares were $1.75 – one way, no transfer,” said Carson.
A dollar 75 one-way and no transfer -- but that’s in the Midwest.
In Las Cruces, it’s a dollar a ride. Those fees only make up about 15 percent of what it takes to keep the buses running.
That’s according to the man in charge of the roadrunner bus system – Mike Bartholomew.
“You get into really highly urbanized cities you might be pushing 30 percent.”
Transportation is definitely his passion. “There’s an old greyhound that will roll itself if you push it hard on a table.”
He has hundreds of toy buses and oversees a handful of real ones, not enough according to some citizens.
“People would like to see other areas of town served better than what they are now.”
He reads notes and emails bus riders send him. “People would like to see areas that we are serving now served more frequently or more extended hours.”
A recent city survey puts it into numbers.
Around 30 percent of respondents rated bus travel in Las Cruces as “poor.” Nearly 40 percent said it was only “fair.”
But Las Cruces isn’t New York City. Bartholomew knows that. His biggest request is “Probably my number one request is to have Sunday service. There are a lot of people who work on Sunday.”
That will take money of course. Money that comes from the state and federal government.
Santa Fe and Albuquerque have a dedicated local match of federal transit authority money
“In our case we get about a third of our funding from FTA funding for operating funding.”
That money could be reduced by the federal government, but it’s almost a sure bet less money will come from the state.
Las cruces will lose $8.5 million from the last minute amendments to house bill 641.
“Because we get general fund monies, we could potentially be affected if the city doesn’t have other revenue sources.”
Las cruces has 15 years to wean itself off the $8.5 million. What portion the already lean bus system would take is unknown. Federal funding is intact – this fiscal year anyway.
“We got about $1.8 million in federal funding. That money can be used for capital or for operations.”
Sunday service is one way to improve. Another is bus shelters. When Bartholomew took his job in 2002, the number of shelters was surprising.
“When I came here there were four bus shelters.”
There are a lot more now – a good thing if you don’t like sunburns, and by year’s end, people like heather torres, may have something to do while they sit and wait.
“We’re working on programs to get real time information.”
So even if that bus is late, she’ll know about it.